JACKSON—A district judge has found “good cause” exists for an emergency hearing seeking a temporary restraining order against Wyoming’s law prohibiting most abortions. She will listen to arguments Wednesday.

Ninth District Judge Melissa Owens set the hearing after requests from attorneys representing two women, two doctors and two groups that aid pregnant women. The coalition filed suit Monday against the State of Wyoming, Gov. Mark Gordon, Attorney General Bridget Hill, Teton County Sheriff Matthew Carr and Jackson Police Chief Michelle Weber.

The civil action seeks a temporary restraining order preventing Wyoming’s abortion ban — which becomes law Wednesday — from going into effect and a judgement that the ban violates the Wyoming Constitution. The law, triggered by the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning the federal right to an abortion, criminalizes the procedure in Wyoming except in cases of rape, incest, serious risk of death or “substantial and irreversible physical impairments” to the pregnant woman.

“[T]he state Constitution indisputably guarantees the right to abortion care which at its heart is the right to be left alone by the government absent compelling need…”

Attorneys John Robinson and Marci Bramlet

“Without injunctive relief Wyomingites and especially women lose their right to decide whether and when to become parents,” a memorandum supporting the restraining order states. Citizens also will lose other rights under the ban, including the right to determine the composition of their families and their entitlement to be “free from discriminatory state laws that perpetuate stereotypes about women and their proper societal roles,” plaintiffs claim.

Wyoming’s new abortion ban also restricts rights to “bodily integrity,” the right “to be free from involuntary servitude” and the right to “bodily autonomy and liberty,” among other things,  according to a memorandum supporting the restraining order, which runs 96 pages, including four affidavits.

The plaintiffs include Kathleen Dow, a University of Wyoming law student with “immediate plans to marry and have children,” and Danielle Johnson, a married woman who is 22 weeks pregnant.

“If Ms. Johnson’s pregnancy reveals that she is pregnant with a fetus with lethal defects, she does not wish to continue the pregnancy…” the memorandum reads.

Dow has had one abortion “to protect herself after becoming pregnant in an abusive relationship,” the filing states. As a practicing Jew who is engaged and plans to have a family, she has a religious obligation.

“Pursuant to her faith, she is to always consider abortion as an alternative if her physical or mental health or life are in danger while pregnant,” the memorandum states.

Medical doctors weigh in

The suit also was brought by doctors Giovannina Anthony and Rene Hinkle, plus the Circle of Hope/Wellspring Health Access and Chelsea’s Fund, groups aiding women during pregnancies.

Anthony and Hinkle have delivered more than 6,000 babies between them and have witnessed numerous complications, according to the legal filing. Citizens will suffer irreparable harm “from forced pregnancy and parenting,” the suit states.

People gather in Cheyenne to protest the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and with it the constitutional right to abortion. (Mike Vanata/WyoFile)

Even a normal pregnancy seriously affects the expectant mother by increasing blood volume, heart rate, clotting factors and complicating digestion, among other things.

Many pregnancies are not normal or planned, the filings state.

Thirty-two percent of pregnancies in the state are unintended, the doctors assert, and bring “an increased risk of intimate partner violence.” More than one in five Wyoming births are by cesarean section, which carries “significant risks.”

Wyoming’s new law will force residents to receive abortion services outside of the state, causing irreparable harm, the filings state. The law also will harm those patients who do qualify for an abortion under the strict Wyoming exceptions, according to the suit.

Pregnant women with “rapidly worsening medical conditions” necessitating an abortion “will be forced to wait for care until their conditions become deadly or threaten permanent impairment,” the suit states. Sexual assault survivors seeking abortions “will be forced to choose between accessing services and maintaining their privacy in deciding whether to disclose the assault.

“This choice is forced on no other autonomous patient in Wyoming’s health care system,” the filings state.

The ban also will harm the doctors and their businesses and the Circle of Hope and others.

The women, doctors and clinics are likely to prevail on the merits of their arguments, which raise “serious issues of constitutional significance,” attorneys wrote. “[T]he state Constitution indisputably guarantees the right to abortion care which at its heart is the right to be left alone by the government absent compelling need…” the suit reads.

The motion includes an affidavit by Johnson who states that the ban would prevent her from receiving “evidence-based health care as recommended by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology,” among others. The ban also could threaten her job as a nurse who has training in sexual assault cases by criminalizing her work.

Dow’s affidavit expands on her religion. “Imposing a Christian or other standard of ethics, medical care, and family planning directly impacts my religious freedom which is at the core of who I am as a person,” she wrote.

If she were to have complications during pregnancy, “the Ban could, and likely would, cause my medical health care providers to delay and/ or deny appropriate medical or surgical treatment until I was in a life-threatening situation,” she wrote. “If the Ban takes effect it will impact my ability to stay in Wyoming, my career, my ability to raise a family, and have children, as my healthcare decisions will have to be surrendered to the state of Wyoming and my family’s decisions about our well-being will no longer be our own.”

Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at angus@wyofile.com or (307)...

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  1. Women need to be able to control their own health care needs, plain and simple! Our elected representatives who sponsored and voted to restrict women’s health care do not represent or respect women’s health care. It’s time for them to stop following party lines. At one time we were leaders and independent giving women the right to vote. Where are our leaders who respected Wyoming women?

  2. I feel that abortion is up to the mother. It should be her choice and not the government’s! There are too many children today that were not wanted and came along by accident. This, in turn, led to unhappiness to the families and the children. Not a great situation! I do not believe in or have ever believed in abortion, but I also felt it was my choice! This is the important thing. CHOICE!!!!!!!!!

  3. I have never heard or read anything about the fact that Wyoming voters decided in 1994 to REJECT a proposed constitutional amendment to outlaw abortion. The proposal was soundly defeated. To me, the standard of having to enact a
    constitutional amendment in order to ban abortions has been set. It must go before the people to decide. No mere legislative conjuring can replace this requirement. And no mere lawyers declaration that this new law is certified as adequate passes for a legal ruling. What has happened to the freedom to make adult decisions that Wyoming once had?

  4. Denying a woman autonomy over her own body not only violates the Wyoming Constitution and the Wyoming spirit of equality, but her rights under the 1st, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 13th and 14th amendments to the US Constitution. Life is a beautiful choice, IF it is a choice.

  5. ” This comment is from a nurse friend. “And there in lies the rub! They don’t see abortion as a medical issue. They are blind to how multilayered and complex pregnancy actually is. They are only willing to address the ethical issue of the fertilized egg, and as they see it, human life. A fertilized egg is simply a fertilized egg it is NOT an embryo and certainly not a viable fetus! Most people have an inherent tendency to reduce problems to the lowest denominator which makes the problem seem more manageable but provides only a false sense of reassurance that the problem is manageable. One size DOES NOT FIT ALL! And even that one single ethical issue in itself is too complex to reduce to one answer. That’s why hospitals and research teams have ethics committees that help guide decisions based on multiple parameters including first and foremost the patients wishes! ”

    The Supreme Court’s decision reminds me of a quote by James Baldwin. “It is certain in any case that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

  6. “The unborn” are a convenient group of people to advocate for. They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; they don’t resent your condescension or complain that you are not politically correct; unlike widows, they don’t ask you to question patriarchy; unlike orphans, they don’t need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don’t bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn. You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without re-imagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus, but actually dislike people who breathe. Prisoners? Immigrants? The sick? The poor? Widows? Orphans? All the groups that are specifically mentioned in the Bible? They all get thrown under the bus for the unborn.”

    ― Methodist Pastor David Barnhart

  7. I hope your suit prevails. The so called Christians who have come up with, and passed these laws apparently do not believe in true Christianity (since all their rabid demands are from pre-Christ old testament scripts.) They seem to have conveniently forgotten that Christ was a Jew and was not white.

  8. I thought everyone in the state of Wyoming had gone to the dark side, but I’m glad to hear that there are still some sensible people in the state. Oh the hypocrisy of the Republicans who claim they value freedom, yet they want to force women into a life-changing situation that could endanger their health and well-being.

    No mention of all the children who already exist in foster care. I guess once they’re born, Republicans don’t care about them. This is what happens when you have an uneducated population. They’re easily manipulated into supporting evil.

    1. Repubs are pro-birth and not pro-life.

      Once a child is born due to an unwanted pregnancy, repubs forget about them and expect them to know how to work their bootstraps

    1. None. Abortion services are healthcare. Not every pregnancy wil result in a bouncing baby Republican. This suit truly rests on the firmly held Wyoming belief, My body. My choice. The State has no compelling interest or need to meddle in an individual’s decision to end an unviable pregnancy or tie vas defrens for a vasectomy.

  9. Good. This shameful, unconstitutional law is a vast departure from the Wyoming spirit of the past, where people minded their own business and like to keep the government from interfering directly in their personal lives. Sad to see what this state is turning into, just another Trumper Fox News echo chamber.